Controlling smart city mobility via app

Smart Mobility: smart and mobile in the city


Smart Mobility: smart and mobile in the city

April 9, 2019

How do you transport more and more people quickly through the world’s cities while also saving resources? Smart Mobility focuses on a fully networked transport system throughout the city.

Find out here:

  • The challenges that the smart city of tomorrow faces
  • How digital services and technologies keep city inhabitants mobile
  • What terms such as trip planning, micro mobility and ride hailing mean
  • Why compact electric vehicles are becoming more important

According to a UN forecast, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas in the year 2050. Transporting these masses from A to B demands more than just building more roads and parking spaces and focusing on electric mobility. The challenge is to intelligently transport people throughout the smart city of the future. Infrastructure and mobility offers in cites will change radically. The various approaches to Smart Mobility will provide seamless transport, ideally arranged with a few clicks. These six digital services and technologies are already keeping city inhabitants mobile: trip planning, car sharing, smart parking, car pooling, ride hailing and micro mobility.

Mobility in the city

1. Trip planning: intermodal travel

Major cities offer a diverse range of transport options for personal mobility: public transport with subways, trams, buses, taxis, car sharing and rental bicycles. We select and combine these various modes of transport. “Intermodal” mobility is the seamless transition from one mode of transport to the next. Special apps create a guideline through the jungle of offers. With a public transport, car or rental vehicle – the means of transport is no longer important but rather how quickly and efficiently you arrive at your destination. A single click finds the fastest or most comfortable route, drawing on multiple providers with various forms of transport. These integrated offers are gradually becoming more intelligent and better networked: algorithms integrate the current traffic situation into the calculations in real time, along with parking space availability at the destination. End-to-end payment systems are also currently in development. Apps that currently indicate the most resource-saving options may, in future, be able to suggest routes that are especially healthy as they include sections on foot or with rental bicycles.

2. Car sharing: ownership is out, sharing is in

Car sharing with We Share from Volkswagen
e-Golf electricity consumption, kWh/100 km: combined 14.1 (17 inch) - 13.2 (16 inch); CO₂ emissions combined, g/km: 0; efficiency class: A+

Electric vehicles, in particular, will become an integral part of urban mobility and supplement a smart city’s mobility matrix as part of car sharing fleets. The basic idea is familiar: locate the vehicle via app, reserve, get in and drive off. The car is parked either at a station or somewhere in a business district. Peer-to-peer car sharing can be a good alternative for longer rental periods or in areas without car sharing: people rent out their own personal vehicles to neighbouring people. The system is child’s play to use: the person renting the vehicle defines the rental periods and publishes these on a platform together with photos and information about the vehicle. The vehicle is located on a map. After booking, the vehicle can be unlocked using a smartphone app. Chips and special connectivity boxes replace classic car keys.

3. Smart parking: no more searching

Lack of parking spaces is a chronic problem in cities. Parking space sharing is one solution: tenants or owners with private parking spaces can provide users with parking spaces in private parking areas and garages for a limited period of time. An array of parking apps try to simplify using public parking areas. You can also use these apps to purchase a parking ticket directly when you park on the side of the road or enter the parking garage, eliminating the need to pay at the ticket machine when you leave. The parking fee is charged conveniently via direct debit or credit card at the end of the month. Diverse start-ups and industrial companies are developing a range of solutions for smart cities including radar sensors on lamp post or ground sensors that detect when parking spaces are free or occupied. The information creates a real-time parking map for drivers. Community-based parking is a similar concept: ultrasound sensors installed in the vehicle permanently scan the environment for available parking spaces. The more vehicles are networked, the more up-to-date and consistent the parking space information.

Car sharing with the We Park app from Volkswagen
Smart phones become parking metres: using the “We Park” app, you pay for your parking space via smartphone.

4. Car pooling is making a comeback

Today you no longer spend hours on the side of the road waiting to hitch a ride with your thumb outstretched or a cardboard sign showing your destination while you sweat in the midday sun. Car pooling transforms private vehicles into public transport in the smart city. Finding the right passengers is effortless thanks to the intelligent platforms and apps. In the past, the offers were generally aimed directly at people who were headed in the same direction or by chance wanted to spontaneously book a journey. Companies and commuters are less of a focus. However, carpooling communities for companies, universities or city administrations have now arisen. These address users who travel the same route every day. At the same time, carpooling also promotes social contact and expands your professional network. In cities such as Los Angeles, fully occupied cars can now drive past traffic jams in their own special lanes.

5. Ride hailing: from door to door

Smart Mobility with ride hailing from Moia
Time to get in: the electric shuttle service MOIA supplements public transport

Buses and trains are relatively affordable but only travel certain routes with fixed timetables. Taxis travel everywhere but are expensive. New providers with ride hailing offers are filling the gap between these two extremes. As with the taxi, you can be collected from almost any point in the city. Other passengers with similar destinations can enter and exit along the route, making best use of the shuttle’s capacity. In the background, an algorithm analyses the data from the fleet on the road together with the customer requests to determine the best routes in real time. The passenger’s smartphone guides them to the next collection point within walking distance of the customer. Ideally, door-to-door journeys or wait-free transfers to other modes of transport can be arranged.

Last mile mobility in the city
Too far to go by foot – to close for a car: travelling the last mile in the city on a scooter or bike is the most enjoyable

6. Micro mobility: mastering the last mile

Regardless of whether Shanghai, Berlin or Los Angeles: one major issue when developing forward-looking concepts for Smart Mobility in urban areas is closing the gap from the house door to the next stop or from the last stop to the office. This is known as the “last mile”. Instead of travelling by foot, electric micro vehicles can be used. These are the little brothers of electric vehicles and represent an approach to Smart Mobility in the city: mono wheels, personal transporters, pedelecs, e-bikes, cargo bikes and e-scooters. The latest wave of electric mobility will be usable in bicycle lanes and pedestrian areas. Once you arrive at the office, you can either take the micro vehicle with you or store it. And naturally, the first sharing providers are already appearing. Technologies and digital business models for sustainable mobility in the smart city continue to advance.

Disclaimer by UNICARS LTD

Images: Getty Images, Volkswagen AG
Images: Volkswagen AG
Images: Moia
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